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11 rights defenders, against whom a lawsuit was filed on charges of "aiding armed terrorist organizations" and "being members of an armed terrorist organization" due to their meeting entitled "digital security and protection of human rights defenders", had their sixth hearing at the İstanbul 35th Heavy Penal Court today (November 7).
The hearing, which started at 9.30 a.m., was attended by Günal Kurşun and Veli Acu from the Human Rights Agenda Association, Nejat Taştan from the Association for Monitoring Equal Rights as well as Amnesty International Turkey Chair Taner Kılıç and their attorneys. The hearing was also followed by several rights defenders from Turkey and abroad.
At the hearing, the attorneys of the defendants stated that the case file had been completed and advocated that the case should be finalized and the defendants should be acquitted.
Attorney of Taner Kılıç requested that his client be exempted from attending the hearings and his international travel ban be lifted.
In its interlocutory ruling, the court board ruled that Kılıç shall be exempted from the hearings, but his international travel ban continue to be in effect.
"The state owes an apology to rights defenders"
The comment of attorney Oya Aydın regarding the testimony of the anonymous witness was especially striking:
"The anonymous witness though that secret things were discussed and reported it to the law enforcement authorities; it was how the investigation was launched. The same anonymous witness emphasized that the things that he/she previously said were not right by stating 'That was how I thought.' The case has become defamatory for the human rights defenders.
"The state owes an apology to the rights defenders, who have been put into the position of defendants."
One of the defendants of the case, Günal Kurşun also stated, "I request the immediate end of this ridiculous trial and my acquittal.
The next hearing will be held on March 21, 2019.
Statement by rights organizations before the hearing
Before the hearing, eight rights organizations, namely Association for Monitoring Equal Rights, Rights Initiative Association, Human Rights Association, Human Rights Agenda Association, Women's Coalition, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Amnesty International Turkey and Citizens Assembly made a statement for the press and demanded the immediate acquittal of the 11 rights defenders:
"This will be the sixth hearing in this case, which is a legal tragedy"
"We want to underscore once again: we don't accept any of the accusations levelled against our fellow human rights defenders who are leaders and members of rights organizations recognised all over in Turkey and around the world. Not only do these allegations not have any concrete basis, this prosecution is also one of the indicators of the severe repression directed at the human rights movement in Turkey in recent years."
About Büyükada Rights Defenders Case
10 human rights defenders, who came together in the island of Büyükada in İstanbul for a workshop themed ""digital security and protection of human rights defenders", were taken into custody in a police raid on July 5, 2017.
On July 18, Idil Eser (Amnesty International Turkey Director), Özlem Dalkıran (Citizens' Assembly / formerly called Helsinki Citizens Association), Günal Kurşun (Human Rights Agenda Association), Veli Acu (Human Rights Agenda Association), Ali Garawi (citizen of Sweden / human rights trainer) and Peter Steudtner (citizen of Germany / human rights trainer) were arrested on charges of "committing crimes in the name of an armed terrorist organization" and "being members of a terrorist organization."
lknur Üstün (Women's Coalition) and Nalan Erkem (Citizens' Assembly / formerly called Helsinki Citizens Association) were also arrested on July 23. As for Nejat Taştan (Association of Monitoring for Equal Rights) and Seyhmuz Özbekli (Rights Initiative Representative), they were released on probation with an international travel ban.
At their first hearings on October 25, 2017, Günal Kurşun, İlknur Üstün, İdil Eser, Nalan Erkem, Peter Steudtner, Özlem Dalkıran, Ali Garawi and Veli Acu were released and an international travel ban was imposed on Özlem Dalkıran and Veli Acu.
Arrested with 22 other lawyers in June 2017, file of Amnesty Turkey Chair Taner Kılıç was combined with Büyükada case. Release order was issued for Kılıç on January 31, 2018 but a warrant was issued before he was released from prison.
Taner Kılıç was released from prison on August 15, 2018.
* Photograph: İrem Afşin
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